KOCHI: The inauguration of the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) on Saturday had all the elements of a mega event with high security buildup around the venue. But the star of the event was Metroman E. Sreedharan, who even overshadowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inaugural function at Kaloor Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. The very mention by KMRL managing director Elias George of Mr Sreedharan in his welcome speech triggered thunderous applause and whistling and cheering from the audience which did not subside for a while. Then when he resumed to formally welcome Mr Sreedharan, another round of applause erupted.
The mention of Sreedharan's extraordinary role in completing the Kochi Metro project in record time by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu in their speeches too were welcomed by the audience with huge applause. All these while Mr Sreedharan sat on the dais calm and composed like a yogi. The venue sprang into life earlier around 11 am with the huge screen behind the dais showing visuals of Prime Minister along with Chief Minister, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu and BJP state president Kummanam Rajsekharan and a few officials including Mr Sreedharan boarding the Metro at Palarivattom after cutting the ribbon.
The 3,500-strong invited audience welcomed the memorable moment with loud applause. After the journey, the Prime Minister arrived at the venue and the formal inauguration by the PM was over after the speeches of Mr Naidu and the Chief Minister. Mr Modi, as is his wont, greeted Malayalis and Kochiites in Malayalam. Mr Naidu too did not miss the opportunity to spice up his speech with the use of Malayalam words in the beginning to endear himself to the audience. The Prime Minister's speech did not have elements to arouse the audience and it ended with the customary applause. There was no speech by Governor P Sathasivam, Sreedharan, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala and State Transport Minister Thomas Chandy.
Almost the entire State Cabinet was seated in the front row, while local MLA P.T. Thomas too turned up for the event. However, poor acoustics at the make-shift venue, marred the speeches. Interestingly none stood up for the prayer in Sanskrit delivered by a woman at the beginning of the event and when it began, Governor P Sathasivam was seen turning restive in his seat doubting whether to stand or not and then settling down while Mr Modi, next to him, sat in a straightened posture. The function missed the national anthem in the beginning and in the end.